5 for Friday – I Hate Book Endings!


While I don’t always plan to do my 5 for Friday posts about books, I feel the need to catch up since I’ve been gone for so long. I love to read l others’ short recaps on books to know what I would like to spend my time reading or what I can ultimately skip.

But here is something you may not know about me…

Although I love to read, I usually hate the endings to books.

Generally it’s not because they don’t turn out the way that I’d like. It’s because they often feel rushed, like the author really just wanted to hurry up and finish. Other times, they add too much extra stuff that didn’t need to be just to explain what happened after the book’s climax. And still other times, the ending just fades into the distance, leaving me feeling lost. I think, “why did they even mention XYZ.” There is often no explanation nor did that part have any importance to the structure of the story.

Now, know that I’ve never taken a creative writing class outside of high school nor do I have any training in plot development. I’m only offering up my feelings on how a book makes me, as a reader, feel. This is what adds or subtracts to the enjoyment of a book.

Despite this fact of disliking endings, that doesn’t mean that there are books I don’t love nonetheless. It’s strange, isn’t it? But let’s carry on…



It Ends with Us
by Colleen Hoover
 (fiction) – worth a read

I’ve never read one of Hoover’s books; but I’m told that fans of hers will find this a very different novel from her others. I really liked the opening line of the book, but as the storyline grew, I got really annoyed. There were times that I almost threw it across room and thought I should just put the damn thing down. I mean, I was on a yoga retreat at the time and shouldn’t have been reading something that wasn’t calming me, right?

But it was like a trainwreck and I ended up staying up one night while on the retreat just to finish it and was glad I did. I liked how this one ended and the message the author was trying to convey. Really.


The Gifts of Imperfection
by Brené Brown
 (non-fiction) – worth a read?

It’s been a while since I’ve read this book and I can’t remember too much about it. That’s why I’m so glad I took notes! It’s sad when you think of a book you read where you can’t recall any tidbit of new information nor how a story ended. I should take more notes, really.

My Notes:

  • A description on the book reads “Your Guide to a Whole Hearted Life”. I wouldn’t agree that it is a guide. There is a lot of theory here, but not a specific guide. Brown is a researcher, and a very good one at that. Still, she does a much better job at describing her findings rather than guiding you into such a life.
  • Brown has extensively studied shame and the number one thing I learned: You need to talk about it. Everybody feels it. Acknowledging it can help you feel better and move past it.
  • Religion and spriituality = connectiveness. I have not spent much of my life focusing on this area, so the fact that I was at a yoga retreat put this into perspective. To me, it related to mindfulness, too.
  • Boundaries – I wrote this one word. I can’t remember why, but I think it was about creating boundaries with other people. I also have “prana-sucking” written next to it, which I note was not in the book, but we explored prana in one of our workshops at the retreat. I think setting boundaries had something to do with the people in my life you suck the prana out of me! Now. how to do that is another story. I’m not so great with that.
  • You can never love others more than your self. Brown goes into depth on this and it was pretty eye-opening. But I could never explain it myself to you.
  • Create a different kind of list – one that lists your ingredients for joy and meaning in your life, meaning list the specific conditions that are in place when everything feels good in life. Compare this to your to-do list. It’ll put things in perspective.

Boy am I glad I took notes! When thinking about this book, nothing triggered in my brain, but those notes sure did!



The Happiness Dare:
pursuing your heart’s deepest, holiest, and most vulnerable desire

by Jennifer Dukes Lee
 (non-fiction) – DNF

I’m always interested on reading books about happiness. Who doesn’t want to want the happiest life they can possibly live? Reading about it always gives me new ways to look at what happiness means to me. I can also discover new ways to create it in my life. However, I couldn’t get past the beginning. Maybe I’m reading too many of these books as of late or maybe I was turned off by the incorporation of religion to more of an extent than I’d like.



The Travelers
by Chris Pavone
 (fiction) – worth a read

This is a thriller that I thought would read more quickly than it did, but it could have been my life circumstances. I liked how many places I got to travel through this book, as well as trying to figure out who was who. I could see it as a thrilling action-packed movie, though not a blockbuster. Though, I would see it for the landscapes! Decent ending for someone who doesn’t like endings.🙂



Skinnytaste: Fast and Slow
by Gina Holmoka, Heather K. Jones
 (cookbook) – must read

Did you know that I read cookbooks like novels? I may occasionally skip a passage and I don’t read every line or ingredient, but I do read them from cover to cover. Although I rediscovered the library just this past year, it wasn’t until very recently that I could check out cookbooks! One can often order cookbooks via kindle, but I don’t like reading them on my phone. I’d rather thumb through the pages and mark my favorites.

But borrowing a cookbook from the library is like giving it a test drive! I read this cookbook on the way to Green Bay in November (while my husband drove, of course) and by the time I’d finished I knew I’d be returning the book and purchasing it for myself as well as for Christmas gifts. (Shh…)

Holmoka – who blogs at Skinnytaste, which I’ve been following for years – offers up flavorful recipes made with real food that’s healthy but can be fit into a busy lifestyle. Recipes are either quick and easy (fast) or thrown into the crockpot (slow). Genius.


 Do you take notes when you read books? Why/how?

Have you ever discovered a cookbook elsewhere, but after thumbing through it, knew you had to have it?


5 for Friday – What I’ve Been Reading


I always love the 5 for Friday posts I see across the web. There is something wonderful or people expressing 5 little tidbits that come together, whether they be expressions of gratitude, products or services liked, events that happened, links they enjoyed.

Since I’ve been absent for over two months, you can imagine that I was either busy or not motivated. I was overcome with waves of emotion that only a good book could tame and keep my brain occupied. I thought about grouping the books together for you in little 5 for Friday snip-its; but they proved more difficult to categorize than I thought. Besides, I didn’t want to share all of my favorites and then have a post of duds! So you may just get them chronologically over the next few weeks.

All of the books in this post were read right around our October trip to Michigan…



Underground Airlines
by Ben H. Winters 
(fiction) – worth a read

It’s present day. However, 4 states in the U.S. have not abolished slavery. Seriously. It’s a crazy concept. I heard a review of this book on NPR while driving to Green Bay one weekend. I was immediately intrigued. While I felt a different story could have been done much better in this insane setting, I could see this book as a movie. Though, I haven’t researched if that will be happening.



Loner: A Novel
by Teddy Wayne
 (fiction) – worth a read

I knew nothing about this book before reading it, nor do I remember where I heard about it. It’s a new release that I put on hold and got to be the first to read my library’s version when it came available. Whoa. I don’t want to give too much away and giving my opinion of what it reminds me would spoil the end. Let’s just say that it’s written from an, um… interesting perspective.



Beautiful Blue World
by Suzanne LaFleur
 (fiction) – worth a read

Whoa. This is an imaginative take on war and how children could be sent to participate. It takes place in a total fictional setting from the eyes of a child. It’s a very quick read and filled with emotion.



Hyperbole and a Half:
unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened

by Allie Brosh
 (non-fiction) – worth a read

This is a book with illustrations from the blog of the same name. I discovered it when I was looking for some feel-good books. I like the humorous perspective because it makes you laugh, but it’s not 100% feel-good. I was, however, intrigued by her take on depression. Also, some good dog stuff, too… if you like that sort of thing. (I do.)



Miracle’s Boys
by Jacqueline Woodson
 (fiction) – worth a read

This is a quick, worthy read of only 144 pages. What amazes me is how Woodson can fill such few pages with a full and beautifully-told story. I’ve just read another book of hers and find her writing soothing even though she explores how death affects people.



The Bafut Beagles
by Gerald Durrell (non-fiction?) – DNF

I know that this book turns my “5 things Friday” in 6, but I wanted to add a book that I Did Not Finish.

I ordered this book from PaperbackSwap.com because I couldn’t find it at my local library even though it gets such high ratings on GoodReads. It was the last book I was reading on our trip to Michigan and I was having such a hard time pushing through it. It is an account of the author’s trip to the Cameroons in the 1949 for the collection of zoo specimens. I believe that is is non-fiction; but the book reads more like a novel and some of the accounts just seem unbelievable or embellished. But what do I know about such things or that era?

It was a difficult book for me to read because of some of the treatment of the animals, but would we know about so many animals in the world today if someone had not collected specimens? Alas, I unintentionally left this book behind at my in-laws’ place. I didn’t bother with asking them to send it to me. I wasn’t really enjoying it anyway.

Name your favorite feel good books! {fiction or non-fiction}

{I’m looking for suggestions!}


5 Gifts I Gave in 2015: Ideas for your 2016 Gift-Giving


Yeah, it’s been over two months since I’ve last posted.

That’s my longest stretch since I’ve started this little blog. And I have lots to say. So much that I kept writing and re-writing the return post in my head over and over. It seems like there is no satisfying way to jump back in, so let’s just do it with something easy.

It’s my annual list of holiday gifts I gave the previous year! I hope it spurs some ideas for you!

1 – Ornament Storage Box

Last year I shared how grateful I was that my husband’s mom gave him a new ornament every Christmas marked with the year. When we put up our first tree together, she made sure we got that box of ornaments. It’s just wonderful to have a tree filled with ornaments that have meaning and evoke precious memories!


I started to give my niece and nephews an ornament each year so that they’ll have their own collection when they become adults, too. Some years, I’ve done person-specific ornaments. Other years, everyone gets the same thing, but marked with their name and the year. Some years, the ornaments will be purchased. (Last year was Packer footballs!) Other years, they will be handmade. Although I’m not very crafty. If you are, check out last year’s post filled with links to all the crafty ornament ideas.

But then I started to wonder what happened to all of these ornaments when the kids took them home. Were they scattered about the house? Put in boxes? Would they even find them by the time they move out?

That’s when I had the idea to get them each an ornament storage box. There are so many styles out there, but this is the one I snagged for each of them on Black Friday for only $14.99 last year:



You don’t have to start the ornament tradition at birth like Rob’s mom did. It’s never too late! Give a box and start now with the very first ornament in the box. If you are crafty, you could even create yearly or special occasion ornaments. My hairdresser loved this idea so much that she thought about creating ornaments that represent each year; perhaps something from a vacation, an accomplishment or big moment in the year, a school photo. Then just put them all in the box to start!

Here is the note we included with the box for the kids:

Your Own Collection

Save all of the Christmas ornaments you receive over the years and store them safely in this container. When you grow-up and get your own place, you’ll not only have ornaments to put on your own tree, but also the memories of receiving them!


Aunt Carrie & Uncle Rob  ~ 2015


2 – Homemade Wine

You know all that wine we made in 2015? Well, our first batch was due to be ready on February 14th. Oh wow. That’s a little eerie typing that. February 14th has a whole new meaning for us now.

Anyway, we gave a bottle of my parents and a bottle to my brother and sister-in-law with a tag indicating the date it would be ready to drink. We had no idea if it would be any good, so I also posted a recipe to make to make sangria or mulled wine with it!

When the wine was opened in February, they all said (politely?!) that they loved it. I personally did not like it. But we’ve had some great sangria and mulled wine in the past year!🙂


3 – Personalized Mugs

I just love giving personalized mugs. One year we gave Photo Magic Mugs that when hot liquid is added you can see a lovely photo of Sophie and Shamrock. Last year, I sent these to Rob’s parents, who live in Michigan.

I found the instructions here.  I found it difficult to write “Miss You” on the bottom of the mug like they did. So when I failed on the first one, I put it on the lip instead.


4 – Luxury

What you might find luxurious might be different for someone else. Have your gift recipient in mind. What would they find luxurious? A soft blanket? An electronic toothbrush? For a teenage girl, I thought a Venus razor set would be a break from the norm. I gave my favorite one. The type of razor does matter! One way to come up with a luxury gift for your loved one is to think of something they already like or already do and upgrade it. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You could get someone who likes to write a nice journal and/or pen.


5 – Books You Love

Now that I am finally back into reading, I’ll be giving a lot more of these this year. Last year I gave my teenage nephew A Dog’s Purpose – one of my all-time favorite fictional books that is written from the point of view of a dog.

What’s absolutely wonderful is that this past year, W. Bruce Cameron adapted his wonderful story for young readers (for 8-12 year olds, grades 3 to 7) and named it Bailey’s Story. (Shhh!!! My 9-year-old nephew is getting it this year!)

What’s more is that A Dog’s Purpose is now a movie and will be out in theaters in January! I can’t wait to see it, but am curious how it will be done from a dog’s perspective.

Tailor your gift to your recipient, thinking about what he or she likes. Or, offer up your favorite book(s) that you think might make them as happy as they made you. I’ve been trying to think of who else would like the book I’m reading as I’m reading it.

Best book I read all year? Kitchens of the Great MidwestI thought it was non-fiction, but it is a wonderful fictional story, especially if you live in the Midwest. It made me laugh out loud at times. Oh, but I listened to the audiobook version of this one. It was so worth it!


Want more unique gift-giving ideas? Here are a few of my posts from past years:

Looking for more ideas? Try these links!

Looking for more ideas? Try these links. Some are older, but I still think they have great ideas:

I’m baaaack…. (I think.)

What unique gifts did you give or receive last holiday season?




What I’ve Been Reading… & Audio Books


Let’s get right to it, shall we? Here’s what I’ve been reading…



Nobody’s Fool
by Richard Russo (fiction) – skip?

I originally had a different book – Everybody’s Fool –  on my to-read list as well as on hold at the library. I’m not sure where or how this book was recommended to me, but there was a dog on the cover, so that probably clinched it.🙂 However, before I picked the book up at the library, I noticed that it was the second book in a series. So instead, I picked up this book – #1 in the series.

To be honest, I didn’t really like this book so much. About half-way in, I had to push my way through it because I had invested so much time in the characters. While I did like the characters, I kept thinking that something was going happen. That there’d be a turning point. But there was no definite climax, in my opinion. And while it’s not a major part of the book, something that happened to a dog really upset me. Once I finished the book, I was more relieved to be done with it than anything, but also a bit peeved that I put so much time into those all of those pages. I was kind of surprised that it got such high ratings. Maybe because the author is a Pulitzer Prize winner?

Still, I did look up reviews of the sequel, Everybody’s Fool, that features a {different} dog. Some people said that the dog was their favorite character in the book. DAMN! Just when I swore I wouldn’t invest any more time in this series, it just might reel me back with the dog… as long as nothing horrible happens to him.



by Elie Wiesel (fiction) – worth a read

This is the second book in a series that started with the non-fiction Holocaust story Night. {My thoughts on that book, here.} I’m not sure why they call this a series, because it’s not really a sequel. It’s also fiction, where the first book was his own personal real-life story. But Elie Wiesel created another work of art. It’s a quick read that kept my attention. I finished it in a day, but I’m a slow reader. So many would probably finish it in a couple of hours. Now I need to read the last book of the series – Day.


The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (audio)
by Amy Schumer
 (non-fiction) – must read

I haven’t been much of an audio book person, but now that my five-minute commute {poor me!} has turned into a 30-minute one, I decided I needed something to pass the time and not so much on an unhealthy focus and heightened awareness of a potential accident.

I chose Amy’s book to cheer me up during this stupid commute. First off, I am a huge fan of Amy. I think she is a hilarious as a comedian, but also a strong woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes. I personally love this video – a hysterically funny sketch, but with also a message.


Listening to her book on audio was strange at first. It felt like she was just reading the book. It wasn’t the normal Amy spunk and voice I’m used to. But it soon changed and I fell in love with this book, which is not a collection of her jokes. And while she states that this is not a memoir because she is not old yet old enough for that, it really is a story of her life and how she came to be where she is today – both personally and professionally.

Even if you don’t care about what her life was or is like, I think it is book that showcases a strong, independent woman, even if that was not her intention. She touches on topics such as introversion, self-discovery, body image and abuse. My favorite chapter was Letter to the Editor. I liked it so much that I went back and listened to it again. Amy is often labeled as a sex comic, but that isn’t her entire persona. You’d be surprised with the truth she shares.




A Short History of Nearly Everything (audio)
by Bill Bryson
 (non-fiction) – DNF

After finishing The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, I picked up this audio book because I wanted something else funny to listen to on my commute. One of my favorite books is Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson. I remember returning from Europe and reading this book on the recumbent bike at the gym and laughing hysterically out loud, turning heads. I’ve read a couple of his other books and thought this might be a good one to pass the time.


I hit play and the voice that came out of the speakers was one with a British accent. Not only that but his style of reading was so dull and dry. I’d prefer to tread this book imaging Bryson’s voice instead. Maybe it was decided that he should not read his own book on audio; however, the person that was chosen did not suit me. I promptly took it back to the library.


When I first decided to try out audio books, I  was trying to decide if I would get the same thing out of the book if I were reading it. I kind of felt like I was cheating. But then I read a couple of great articles that explain why it’s not. Like this one. Sure, you may be using a different part of your brain to concentrate, but you really do have to focus. It’s not just passive listening. I had to back up a few times listening to the first book just because I realized that my mind was wondering. I remember this, too, the first time I tried listening to a podcast.

Still, my lesson learned is that not all audio books are created equal. How do you choose whether to read or listen? So I’m looking for suggestions. Suggestions of books that are great on audio, maybe even better that reading the book! I found a list online that I’m starting with, but would love some more ideas. Thank you for sharing.

Name books that you think are great on audio.


Big Mac Bowls


I had some ground beef that I took out of the freezer with the intention of making burgers or tacos one night. It didn’t happen. Nor did it the next day. Then my husband went out of town. I needed to use up this ground beef! I also had several other veggies I needed to use up. So I made some lunches for the work week inspired by Andie Mitchell’s Cheeseburger Salad with  Big Mac Dressing and the usual lunchtime Power Bowls {aka Throw Together Lunch} I often create after I learned of Anne’s Quick and Easy Meal Formula.


As a reminder, here is the basic formula for the bowls and what I used to create the bowls. This bowl is one that you warm in the microwave. Alternatively, you could make it salad by substituting romaine and just topping it with the hot beef later!

  1. Base – spinach
  2. Grain/Starch – cooked diced potatoes {mimicking fries, perhaps!?}
  3. Protein – cooked ground beef {You could add chopped bacon if you like that sort of thing on your burger.}
  4. Veggies – onions, tomatoes, baby bella mushrooms
  5. Fat – shredded cheddar
  6. Sauce – Big Mac Sauce: I recommend this one or Mel Jouwan’s Awesome Sauce from her cookbook Well Fed 2


And if you are looking for a recipe…

Big Mac Bowls

(Makes 4 bowls)


  • 4 cups spinach
  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • granulated garlic, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional toppings:
    • sauteed mushrooms
    • diced onion
    • tomatoes
    • bacon
    • any veggie or topping you desire on a burger!
  • Sauce – Big Mac Sauce: I recommend this one or Mel Jouwan’s Awesome Sauce from her cookbook Well Fed 2.


  • Heat a pot of salted water to boiling.
  • Medium dice the potatoes and throw in the pot. Cook for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender, but not mushy. Drain.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a large pan. Add the onion and sautee until translucent.
  • Add the ground beef and season with plenty of salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste. Cook until nicely browned.
  • Make the Big Mac Sauce. I recommend this one or Mel Jouwan’s Awesome Sauce from her cookbook Well Fed 2. There are several versions out there on the interwebs!
  • If you are making these bowls in advance for lunches, let the hot items cool before assembling.
  • Divide ingredients and assemble the bowls, layering in this fashion:
    • 1 cup chopped spinach
    • 1/2 cooked diced potato (1/4 of what you made)
    • 1/4 ground beef mixture
    • toppings
    • 2 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 to 2 Tbsp Big Mac Sauce
  • Store in air tight containers in the fridge. When ready to eat, heat for approximately 2 minutes.

This all comes in around 400 – 500 calories depending on how lean your beef is and the kind and amount of toppings you use.

Here’s the not-so-pretty but oh-so-delicious photo of the end result after heating at work!



What I’ve Been Reading…


I have a lot of books on suspended hold at the library, but a couple I received lately were, again, brand-spanking new. What I like about having books on hold at the library is that I don’t really have to think about what I’m going to read next. If it becomes available, that’s what I’m reading!

However, the first book in this line-up was one I got from PaperBackSwap.com:


PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives
by Frank Warren (non-fiction) – great coffee table book

This is a truly a work of art. Warren scattered blank postcards with his address on them across various locations with the instructions to write a secret that has never been told. This book is a collection of the postcards he received. Some are shocking, {“He’s in prison for something I’ve done.”}, others are great expressions of feelings, while still others are humorous. It’s a quick book to thumb through. People didn’t just write their secrets, some submissions were more artistic, including hand drawn pictures or photographs. It’s been said that for some people, just sending these secrets on a post card to a stranger was an incredible release of something bottled up for so long.



The Last Days of Night
by Graham Moore (fiction) – worth a read, but only if you like historical fiction and inventions

I picked this one up from the library – brand new. It’s kind of cool getting to be the first reader of a new library book. I wish there was a good way in Good Reads that I can note why I put a book on my must-read list or from where I got the recommendation. This is not a book I would normally pick off the shelf. It’s a work of historical fiction based on true events. Moore took the accounts of days of Edison’s light bulb invention and filled in the pieces with much imagination. Not knowing that much more about this period in time than that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, there is no way for me to tell what parts are fact and what parts are fiction. But who cares? I think it’s a cool concept to take historical facts and tie them together with a nice dramatic plot.



I’ll See You in Paris
by Michelle Gable
 (fiction) – worth a read

I have to admit, I was 100% drawn to this book by the cover. Little cafes in Paris are just about one of my favorite things. Blue is my favorite color, too. It makes me feel relaxed and happy. This is what the cover makes me feel. However, the majority of this book is not set in Paris! Yet, it’s still wonderful. Really, it’s a story within a story within a story. It started out a bit slow for me, but it all comes together in the end. I’m glad I was drawn to the cover instead of a descriptions because I might not have ever read it otherwise.



Roman Fever
by Edith Wharton
 (fiction) – must read

This is a short story recommended by another blogger that I follow. In fact, her exact words were my favorite short story ever.” I found it funny that I couldn’t locate this particular work of such a classic novelist at my library. It is, however, available for download for just 99 cents. I don’t have an e-reader and hate reading books on my phone. However, this one is just the right length that it is a manageable read in this manner, especially if you find yourself in an unexpected line or waiting room.

What’s the best short story you’ve ever read?

{I’m looking for suggestions!}


Bald Man Brewing


Happy Thirsty Thursday!

A couple of weekends ago marked the grand opening of a new brewery in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul!


The grand opening of Bald Man Brewing Company was on Saturday with a soft opening for family and friends a day or two prior. After seeing how packed the place was on Saturday, I am certainly glad that we didn’t take my parents there while they were in town that weekend!

Instead, Rob and I went on Sunday afternoon. There was no real signage indicating directions to the building, but we found it eventually around the back. And we were able to pull up a couple of seats to the bar. Much nicer than a packed grand opening!


As to be expected at the beginning, the beer list was rather short and somewhat basic.


I overheard a bartender tell a customer that while they currently only have four beers on tap, they plan to average about six at any given time. It sounds like their Oktoberfest will be available shortly {if it hasn’t been already by the time of this post}.

For sitting at the bar, we had quite the time getting service. I thought we were invisible because the people on either sides of us got served in no time! I went with their Tupelo Honey Brown Ale, which I vaguely recall being their signature beer.


It was fine, but I didn’t love it. In fact, I had a hard time getting in down. But I came to learn that day that I had a hard time getting any beer down. So maybe I just wasn’t feeling beer or drinking that day. Rob also tried the Misty Mountains Hops IPA, which he said was solid as far as IPAs go.

There is definitely some money invested in this taproom. I like the open and spacious floor plan.

To the left of that entrance area is even more room with more tables and an open garage door to the back patio. That concrete floor also helps make the tap room dog-friendly! Dogs were already visiting that day.🙂

Look a little more closely at those tanks and how they are labeled:

I think someone is a fan of the guitar!

Bald Man Brewing does not sell food, but on the day of their Grand Opening, a few food trucks were parked there. There was no food truck there on Sunday and no indication that food was welcomed to be brought in or delivered, but I don’t see why not. No one was doing such, though. So we went elsewhere for dinner.

Great start, Bald Man! We will be back to see what other beers you plan to concoct.